What to watch: Emmy contenders for 2021

The 2020-21 Emmy eligibility window has now closed, so anything that’s going to contend for TV’s top award this year is out and available to watch now. 

To that end, we’ve rounded up where to stream the 10 top contenders for Emmy nominations in the Comedy, Drama, and Limited Series categories, based on our expert predictions

We’re predicting wins for Apple’s crowd-pleasing comedy “Ted Lasso,” Netflix’s royal family drama “The Crown,” and Netflix’s sexy chess limited series “The Queen’s Gambit,” with the limited series category the most competitive. But anything can happen between now and July 13, when nominees are announced. Nominee-round voting ends on June 28, so if there’s anything you’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t gotten to yet, now’s the time. And we’ve made it easy to find where to watch the 2021 Emmy contenders, all of which are available on major streaming services. Happy binge-watch season!

Comedy

“Ted Lasso”

This warm-hearted fish-out-of-water comedy stars Jason Sudeikis as an unassuming American college football coach who gets hired to coach an English Premier League soccer team. Positivity ensues when what seems like a stunt turns out to be really good for everyone’s spirit. 

Where to stream: Apple TV+  

“The Flight Attendant”

Kaley Cuoco reinvented herself post-”The Big Bang Theory” with this fun thriller about an alcoholic flight attendant who, after a night of debauchery with a handsome airline passenger, wakes up next to his murdered body. Naturally, this means she gets caught up in an international criminal conspiracy that only she and her friends can solve.

Where to stream: HBO Max 

“Hacks” 

The great Jean Smart stars in this witty comedy as a Joan Rivers-style stand-up comedian. She’s still raking in cash thanks to her Las Vegas show and QVC product endorsements, but her act got stale sometime around 1979. So she agrees to her agent’s request that she hire a writer, an entitled, self-absorbed 25-year-old comic, played by newcomer Hannah Einbinder. And wouldn’t you know it, they learn from each other.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“The Kominsky Method” 

The third and final season of Chuck Lorre’s dramedy finds acting teacher Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) coming to terms with his own mortality after the death of his best friend, Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin, who didn’t return for Season 3), and getting his final and best shot at the successful acting career that eluded him. It’s a sweet and sentimental sendoff.   

Where to stream: Netflix

“PEN15” 

This chaotic series stars creators Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine as, essentially, versions of their 13-year-old selves, surrounded by actual 13-year-olds. For anyone who was in middle school in the early ‘00s, it hits so close to home that it’s almost unwatchable (in a good way). It will make you laugh and cringe in equally uncontrollable measure.

Where to stream: Hulu 

“black-ish” 

Kenya Barris’ family sitcom is a network TV institution at this point, spawning two spinoffs, “grown-ish” and “mixed-ish,” and earning six consecutive Emmy nominations for star Anthony Anderson. It’s maintained a high level of quality throughout its seven seasons. (An eighth and final is on the way.)

Where to stream: Hulu

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” 

NBC’s delightful musical dramedy stars the effervescent Jane Levy as a computer programmer who develops the ability to sense other people’s innermost feelings in the form of pop songs and choreographed performances. This condition was caused by an MRI gone wrong (!). It’s like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” meets “Glee.”   

Where to stream: Peacock

“Master of None”  

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s dramedy always took pleasure in busting up its format, but it never reinvented itself as much as it did in Season 3, which shifts the focus to Lena Waithe’s Denise and her relationship with her wife Alicia (Naomi Ackie) as they struggle with the prospect of becoming parents. The intimate season captures moments in a relationship through long takes and naturalistic performances.  

Where to stream: Netflix

“Girls5Eva” 

This ensemble sitcom is about a one-hit-wonder ‘90s girl group whose members are now in their 40s and working normal jobs that gets an unexpected opportunity to give music stardom another shot when a rapper samples their song in a hit single. Is your favorite member Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, or Renée Elise Goldsberry

Where to stream: Peacock

“Cobra Kai” 

The “Karate Kid” sequel series has become more successful than anyone would have ever expected, becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched shows after moving over from YouTube. Season 3, the first Netflix original season, deepened the relationships between the “Karate Kid” old-timers and the young charges they’re instructing in the ways of Mr. Miyagi. 

Where to stream: Netflix

Drama

“The Crown”  

Season 4 of Netflix’s regal hit covers the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s, aka the Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana years. Gillian Anderson and Emma Corrin, respectively, helped give the show a shot in the arm and make it the buzziest it had been since Season 1. (Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle helped, too.) 

Where to stream: Netflix

“The Mandalorian”

The sensational Star Wars series is arguably the best thing to come from a galaxy far, far away since “Return of the Jedi.” Season 2 expanded the world and the scope of the show in really satisfying ways, and packed an emotional wallop as Mando and Grogu deepened their bond, only to have to separate. 

Where to stream: Disney+

“Bridgerton” 

Shonda Rhimes’ first Netflix series got everyone all hot and bothered with its Regency-era romance – and we mean everyone, as Netflix says this is its most-watched series ever. Season 1 followed the courtship of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Duke of Hastings Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page, who was instantly launched to the A-list by the show).

Where to stream: Netflix 

“Lovecraft Country”

This prestige horror drama follows Korean War veteran Tic Freeman (Jonathan Majors) and his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) as they battle horrifying monsters and even more horrifying racism as they try to solve the mystery of Tic’s ancestry. He has magic in his blood. It’s a dizzying trip through many different horror subgenres packed to the gills with sociopolitical commentary.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“Pose”  

Ryan Murphy’s heavy but uplifting series about members of New York City’s drag ball culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s is currently in its third and final season. It’s 1994, the city is changing, and Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Pray Tell (Billy Porter), and the rest are doing their best to live their lives with dignity and joy in a world that’s very cruel to people like them. 

Where to stream: The first two seasons are on Netflix, Season 3 is on FX Now

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Now in its fourth season, Hulu’s Elisabeth Moss-led adaptation has way outpaced the Margaret Atwood novel on which it’s based, but continues to be a furious and attention-holding dystopian drama. In the current season, June (Moss) and her nemesis Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) are closer to mutually assured destruction than ever.  

Where to stream: Hulu 

“This Is Us” 

NBC’s perfectly engineered tearjerker continues to be the best drama series on broadcast. In Season 5, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) processed his emotions around the George Floyd protests and being a Black man with a white family, while Kevin (Justin Hartley) has relationship problems and Kate (Chrissy Metz) goes on an adoption journey. 

Where to stream: Hulu 

“Perry Mason” 

HBO’s remake of the classic detective series is powered by an excellent performance by Matthew Rhys and beautiful 1930s Los Angeles period details. In Season 1, the titular private investigator works a kidnapping case that takes him deep into the seedy side of the city while he struggles with his trauma from the Great War and his recent divorce. It ain’t your granddaddy’s Perry Mase.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“The Boys”

Showrunner Eric Kripke’s profane, violent, and hilarious adaptation of Garth Ennis’ satirical comic series is the superhero show for people who are tired of superheroes. It follows a group of vigilantes as they fight corrupt superheroes who abuse their powers and the public’s trust. Season 1 was a hit, but Season 2 escalated it to a bona fide sensation. 

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video 

“In Treatment” 

The revival of HBO’s experimental-format drama that drops viewers into a therapist’s weekly sessions now stars Uzo Aduba as a Los Angeles therapist helping her clients deal with timely, mentally overwhelming problems like racial stress and the pandemic. As usual, Aduba is tremendous.

Where to stream: HBO Max

Limited Series

“The Queen’s Gambit” 

This megahit limited series expedited Anya Taylor-Joy’s ascent to superstardom and made chess cool again. Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon, a brilliant chess prodigy who ascends to the pinnacle of her sport while grappling with drug and alcohol addiction and myriad other personal bedevilments in 1950s and ‘60s America.  

Where to stream: Netflix 

“I May Destroy You” 

Writer-director-producer-star Michaela Coel announced herself as a major talent with this caustically funny and endlessly surprising drama about a writer who gets drugged and sexually assaulted and doesn’t remember it. It’s one of the smartest, most honest shows of the past several years. 

Where to stream: HBO Max

“The Underground Railroad”

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins brings his revelatory eye for beauty and pain to this adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-winning novel about slavery where the titular network of help for escaped enslaved people is a literal underground locomotive. The impressionistic limited series is an artistically accomplished work of magical realism. 

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video

“Mare of Easttown” 

Kate Winslet shines as the title tortured small-town detective in HBO’s latest word-of-mouth limited series hit. Mare is trying to solve a murder that’s rocked her Pennsylvania community while trying to keep her own life and family from completely falling apart. Come to listen for the outrageous Delco accents, stay for the powerful performances and riveting mystery.  

Where to stream: HBO Max

“Small Axe” 

Director Steve McQueen’s anthology isn’t really a limited series at all, but rather a collection of five films about West Indian immigrants in London in the 1960s through the 1980s. Some of them are based on true historical events, and all of them are excellent. The cast includes Letitia Wright in “Mangrove” and John Boyega in “Red, White, and Blue.” 

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video

“WandaVision” 

Marvel’s first MCU TV show expanded the stylistic and emotional palette the superhero franchise can paint with, committing to an unexpectedly effective sitcom parody format in service of a story about overwhelming grief and loss. It’s one of the better MCU projects in any format. 

Where to stream: Disney+

“It’s A Sin” 

Distinctive screenwriter Russell T Davies wrote this semi-autobiographical five-part series about the AIDS crisis in London between 1981 and 1991 seen through eyes of a group of gay men and their friends whose lives and attitudes change over the years as the disease devastates their community. It was a big hit in Britain thanks to its empathy and moving performances.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“A Teacher” 

This emotionally harrowing drama is about a high school teacher named Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) who has an affair with a 17-year-old student named Eric Walker (Nick Robinson), which leads to severe consequences in both of their lives. It’s a cautionary tale with a pair of high-quality lead performances.  

Where to stream: Hulu

“The Girlfriend Experience” 

The third season of what has to still be TV’s least-likely movie-to-series adaptation follows a woman named Iris (Julia Goldani Telles) who works at an AI startup by day and as a girlfriend experience provider by night. Both are eye-opening experiences that inform each other. The season is written and directed by intriguing indie filmmaker Anja Marquardt

Where to stream: Starz

“Solos” 

The plot of this sci-fi anthology is hard to talk about without giving too much away, and it’s definitely better to go in cold. We’re not going to spoil it, because you probably haven’t seen it. But you’ve seen the cast: Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Uzo Aduba, Anthony Mackie, Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, and Nicole Beharie.

Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video

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